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Handwriting Without Tears

Genre: English


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(7) Comments


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Handwriting Without Tears

When I was seeking a good handwriting curriculum for my left-handed daughter, I was surprised to see that very few handwriting programs seem to deal with the challenges that face left-handed writers. That’s why I was drawn to Handwriting Without Tears.

Created by occupational therapist Jan Z. Olsen, Handwriting Without Tears is a multi-sensory writing program that provides solid fine motor skill training. Children who progress through the program not only learn to write well, but they also establish foundational drawing skills, good fine motor skills, and solid pencil grip.

What is unique about Handwriting Without Tears?

Handwriting Without Tears utilizes a variety of optional manipulatives for teaching letter formation to the youngest learners.

  • Wooden lines and curves can be put together to create the capital letters, with or without the patterns shown on letter cards. Patterns are also included in the pre-K and kindergarten teacher’s guides for making your own lines and curves.
  • Dough and stamps are also available for creating letters.
  • A slate board and piece of chalk allow the students to write their letters with big motions before trying to write in small form on paper.
  • All of the resources have an eye-catching smiley face in the top left-hand corner to remind children where letters start, thus decreasing the tendency to write letters backwards.
  • A CD with catchy tunes makes teaching learning readiness concepts easy. 
  • Pencils and crayons specially sized for little hands help children learn proper grip.

The Handwriting Without Tears writing workbooks are set up so that the words being copied are always visible, whether the student is left-handed or right-handed. The words to be copied are either above the blank lines, or there are two columns of words with blank lines in the middle so only one column is covered by the child’s hand.

This versatility for right or left-handed students has been the biggest practical advantage for our family. But, the smooth teaching process and the style of writing practice has also been amazing. Handwriting training for our family has definitely been tear-free! My children delightedly work through each book, and are always ready to immediately start the next book. We’ve had very little struggle with backward letters, and fine motor skills have been developed well at a young age.

I also have several friends in occupational and speech therapy careers who regularly use Handwriting Without Tears in their therapy programs because of its usefulness with special needs children.

The primary negative is that the resulting handwriting is going to be clear,  well-formed, and functional, but not necessarily beautiful. Children do not learn a nice slant cursive, but instead write straight up and down. Some parents and teachers find this enough of a drawback to avoid Handwriting Without Tears.

But for our family, Handwriting Without Tears has been a wonderful method for learning good handwriting technique.

About Ann Hibbard

Ann Hibbard loves chocolate, working with words, and ministering to young moms, especially in the homeschool and church communities. Her position as Senior Editor of Web Publishing for Home Educating Family allows her to combine all of those passions, including the chocolate! Ann processes best by writing out her thoughts, and she enjoys sharing many of those thoughts on her two blogs,The Hibbard Five and The Joy of Writing.

Last Updated: December 19, 2011

(7) Leave Your Opinion

  1. Tara C
    December 22, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    LOVE it! Just last night, I ordered the 5th grade book for my daughter and the Pre-K book for my 4 year old!! My daughter had fine motor problems that have resolved, but it's still much easier to teach her proper cursive (yes, I'm one of THOSE people who still believe in teaching cursive) using HWT. The Pre-K book looks AWESOME and I can't wait to start it with my son!!!

    • Ann Hibbard
      January 4, 2012 at 9:46 am

      I'm one of those people too, Tara! I hope your 4-year-old loves it as much as mine did. He couldn't wait to move on to the KG book!

  2. Trish
    January 3, 2012 at 11:29 am

    I've been using this - I have twins, one left-handed and the other right-handed. They have great tips for teaching lefties. I have also used the 5th grade print book and this has helped my dyslexic daughter get her b's and d's straight. I don't use the manipulatives, and after the first time you use it, I didn't bother with the teacher's guide. It is a great tool. Have not done cursive with it, but plan to next year when my boys are in 3rd grade... The kids can learn to slant their letters later.

    • Ann Hibbard
      January 4, 2012 at 9:48 am

      It's really good to actually hear from a parent of a dyslexic child related to this program. I know the claims that the program makes, but I've never talked to someone personally who really saw it make a difference with those b's and d's for dyslexic children.

  3. Nan Jay Barchowsky
    January 16, 2012 at 8:41 am

    Handwriting without Tears gets kudos because it comes from a pediatric occupational therapist. However, beyond some useful manipulatives for beginners, it fails to consider the natural, easy movements of hands. In other words, it fails fine motor skill development. I receive complaints that children who start with HwT do not develop satisfactory legibility at age-appropriate speed.

    • Ann Hibbard
      January 16, 2012 at 8:57 am

      Thanks so very much for that input! I have noticed lately that my children do write rather slowly, and if they do speed up their writing, it is frequently exceedingly sloppy. But, I had never made that connection to their HWT training. Is there another writing program you tend to recommend, or do you have any suggestions for supplementing HWT for fine motor skill development?

  4. Shari Popejoy
    March 12, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Thanks for this review. I'm going to definitely keep this handwriting curriculum in mind to recommend to parents of lefties and for my friends who parent special needs children.

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Review Rating

Quick Overview

paperback teacher's guide and student workbook plus optional manipulatives.
The Children's Curriculum Winner and Teacher's Choice Award (for pre-K curriculum)
Retail Price:
approximately $7.30 each for workbook & teacher's guide. Manipulatives sold separately
pre-K through 4th grade
promotes solid fine motor skill development; works well for left-handed students.
practical up-and-down cursive is taught instead of an attractive slant
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